Communicating about better harnessing for healthier and more productive donkeys
© DONKEYS for AFRICA 2022
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The results of bad harnesses are obvious (wounds, skin lesions) and so it is natural to focus on addressing the harness problems first. However, even the best harness can be problematical if hitching is not correctly done. At the very least, the animal(s) will not be able to work effectively.
There are many different arrangements to hitch more than one donkey. They can be hitched in tandem (one behind the other) or abreast (next to each other).
Dr Peta Jones observes that “Animals do seem to like working in pairs abreast; certainly donkeys do, although left to themselves they do walk in single file.”
Dr Jones continues: “Donkeys identically hitched and abreast directly in front of the vehicle should, in theory, each contribute the same amount of effort. In practice, it is not really possible to ‘identically hitch’ more than two. Either the vehicles are not wide enough and even if there are extra shafts, the kind of pull on them will vary.”
“When I was in Ethiopia, I found that carts which I initially thought had one shaft being pulled by two donkeys, in fact had two shafts, between which one donkey was hitched and doing the work. The other donkey was simply a foal or some other companion, and hitched laterally to a shaft or the other donkey, and thus not pulling the vehicle at all but seriously interfering with the effort of the donkey that actually does the work.” Hitching more abreast, usually three or four, creates very much the same problems. The common reason given is that the donkeys don’t like being left behind, or that the foals are learning to be inspanned even if too young to be working.
Three abreast - or even four - is not ideal as it does not optimise the full potental of the available donkey power.
Carts need to be balanced and manufactured for donkeys – not just adapted from existing trailers.
Left:The heavy yoke rests on the donkeys’ necks where it hinders the pulling power of the animals and causes wounds.
Right: Worn and hard harnessing materials also cause wounds and scarring.
© DONKEYS for AFRICA 2023